You’re supposed to put your best foot forward. In Celtic folklore, journeys begun with the left foot bring bad luck. For a long time I believed I was left-footed. Then a medical professional told me that I was neither-footed. My body chooses left or right at random. I wonder how often I make the unlucky choice?
I wake up in the dark and stand on the street waiting for the Uber to arrive. City Airport? Yes, I’ll be leaving from London City Airport. The driver wants to know where I’m going and I tell him Rotterdam. For holiday? No, for work. Do you live there? No—here, in London. Where are you from? I tell him that I am from here. You look Vietnamese.
There is a certain type of conversation I only have when I am alone in an Uber. I rarely ride alone. I am a taker of public transport on the whole. But in the depths of night, or with a heavy bag, or heading to the airport, I allow myself a solo ride. But it comes with an additional fee. These men always want to know where I’m from. They’ve guessed Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Oriental, Exotic. I’m mixed race, though this seems more or less obvious to different people. An ex-boyfriend expressed surprise that I wasn’t just a white girl. And yet this driver has spied something foreign in me. He must barely be able to see my face. I am sunk into the shadows of the back seat. The low orange glow of street lights streaks over my lap as the cab spins forwards along the road. I don’t know how he has gathered enough of my features to care. But I serve him up my genetic past. Nice. I am relieved at the simple answer and shove my hands deeper into the pocket of the coat. The coat is so old that the pockets have worn through and my fists end up on my lap. I hope he won’t begin to list the virtues of Oriental women, as other drivers have done.
I do not object aloud to this rating of my DNA. I’m too aware that the driver is at work and I’m the spoiled client able to relax in the back. So I smile and ask if he has always lived in London? He’s from Romania. Been in London four years. What does he think of London? Sometimes I like it. Sometimes I hate it. Here, you must work all the time. He tells me he used to be a delivery driver, but this is better. More peace. It is not so bad now. One day, I will start a company. I ask him what but he doesn’t know yet. Something will come up. I am hoping. What do you do?
I’m a writer. I tell him that I am going to the Netherlands to write about a festival.
You must be a good writer.
I don’t know.
We arrive on time. Good luck and make lots of money!
I laugh, surprised by the raw blessing and thank him. Later on the plane, I wonder, should I have said the same to him? Or at least, told him that I hope his something comes up?